Moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would mark a reversal of almost seven decades of US policy.
Presidents from both parties have consistently refused to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem because it would impede efforts for peace, quite likely lead to fatal, tragic violence, and create dangerous hostility to Americans.
Congress, at the behest of portions of the Israel lobby, enacted legislation in 1995 calling for the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem. However, presidents can legally postpone this move every six months due to national security interests, and this has been done ever since the law was passed.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it in a move that is considered illegal under international law. Not a single country has its embassy in Jerusalem.
President Reagan opposed the move and threatened to veto legislation calling for it.
A White House official under George W. Bush commented: “Moving our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem now would complicate our ability to help Israelis and Palestinians advance toward peace.”
Barack Obama similarly renewed the waiver during his time in office.
A writer for an Israeli newspaper observed in 2012:
“Moving the embassy has never been a high priority for any Israeli leader in meetings with American presidents. They see it as a political football in an American game they prefer staying out of. All recent prime ministers have understood that an agreement on Jerusalem is critical to any peace settlement with the Palestinians – and that symbolic action like American politicians trying to force the embassy move can only make an agreement more elusive.”
Interestingly, it was the Democratic Party that first officially promoted moving the embassy to Jerusalem in 1976. As journalist Marsha Cohen documents, such a move has been “a largely Democratic strategy for nearly four decades, particularly when there has been an incumbent Republican president in the White House. Republicans latch on to it whenever a Democratic president is running for re-election.”
As Cohen reports, the GOP’s 1976 platform made no mention of Jerusalem, and the 1980, 1984 and 1988 Republican platforms all declared that “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city with continued free and unimpeded access to all holy places by people of all faiths.”
European and Arab officials have warned that moving the embassy “could unleash violence, undermine the peace process, damage US standing in the Middle East, and endanger American personnel.”
Even a former US negotiator (for both Republican and Democratic administrations) who has acknowledged that in reality he sometimes acted virtually as “Israel’s attorney,” states: “There is simply no compelling American national interest that would justify the possible risks and downsides.”
Previous administrations, while placating some Israel partisans with promises to move the embassy to Jerusalem, wisely chose not to do so, recognizing that such a move would disrupt peace efforts, lead to violence that would cause tragic loss of life among both Israelis and Palestinians, and create perilous hostility to Americans.
We call on President Trump to do the right thing: don’t move the US embassy to Jerusalem.